Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review: Next to Love

Next to Love: A Novel

About the Book:
A story of love, war, loss, and the scars they leave, Next to Love follows the lives of three young women and their men during the years of World War II and its aftermath, beginning with the men going off to war and ending a generation later, when their children are on the cusp of their own adulthood.

Set in a small town in Massachusetts, the novel follows three childhood friends, Babe, Millie, and Grace, whose lives are unmoored when their men are called to duty. And yet the changes that are thrust upon them move them in directions they never dreamed possible—while their husbands and boyfriends are enduring their own transformations. In the decades that follow, the three friends lose their innocence, struggle to raise their children, and find meaning and love in unexpected places. And as they change, so does America—from a country in which people know their place in the social hierarchy to a world in which feminism, the Civil Rights movement, and technological innovations present new possibilities—and uncertainties. And yet Babe, Millie, and Grace remain bonded by their past, even as their children grow up and away and a new society rises from the ashes of the war.

Beautifully crafted and unforgettable, Next to Love depicts the enduring power of love and friendship, and illuminates a transformational moment in American history.

My Comments:
I'm usually a fan of light quick reads and while this book was not in either of those categories, I really enjoyed it.  As noted above, the story follows Babe, Millie and Grace from early in WWII until the time their children are grown.  It also follows Naomi, an African-American who was in school with them.  We watch the men go off to war--and then see who comes home, and who doesn't.  Some of the women spend the War working; others are busy with young ones.  All of their lives are deeply effected by the War, and that effect lasts long after V-Day.

The book is literary fiction; the characters are far more important than the plot.  Sections are dated and usually one woman's story is told, and then another's which can lead to confusion if the section headers are not read.  Even though the women were friends, and raised in the same small town their choices and their lives are very different which gives the characters real depth. To some extent, none of the women has a "normal" life, but then who in real life does?  I can't say I was particularly fond of any of them.  Perhaps because they all in one way or another chose to be unconventional, they all pay a cost.

Since I'm a linear thinker and the book wasn't, I'm not going to give it an A, but I'll give it a solid B+.  I'd like to thank NetGalley for making a review copy available.


  1. Thanks for the review and tips for reading.
    I have this on my wishlist


  2. Sounds like an interesting book. It's hard to imagine what people go through in war times like WWII when the entire nation is affected by global conditions. People who get to live a fairly "ordinary" and peaceful life are more fortunate than they know.

  3. I don't mind when books aren't told linearly, but I thought this one was a bit confusing with all the movement in time. Still, I loved it. I think the author did a great job showing how the war affected not only the soldiers but the people they left back home. I've linked to your review on War Through the Generations.


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